A young woman headed for a career behind the badge has a soft side for kids. And bears. Not the Grizzly kind that are on the badges of the California Highway Patrol officers, her mentors as an Explorer with the Newhall CHP Office, but the soft, cuddly kind that can give comfort to a child with cancer.
Alexis Briano and her fellow CHP Explorers are hoping to collect 300 stuffed animals to give to the Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children’s Cancer for the “Kare Kits” they give to families.
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Kare Kits are special care packages put together by Foundation volunteers to be distributed to newly-diagnosed patients and their families at area hospitals. They include practical supplies needed for a hospital stay, including: grocery, gasoline, and phone cards, toiletries, a flashlight, a special blanket for the patient, and a notebook of resources for the parents.
“I’ve done a canned food drive before, so I’m used to doing drives,” she said, adding that this is the first stuffed toy drive she’s coordinated.
The Explorers working on the project have already collected more than 150 stuffed animals, so they’re well on their way to reaching 300. A total of 10 young men and women are dedicated to the collection.
“It’s only been a week public, but about three weeks privately,” she said. “If we can exceed our goal, that would be great.”
Briano, 19, graduated from Fillmore High School and currently lives in Piru. She is a student at College of the Canyons, and intends to transfer to Brandman University (through the University Center at COC) to get a degree in psychology, a skill that will come in handy if she achieves her career goal of becoming a CHP officer.
“I love law enforcement,” she said.
Briano hit the social networks Thursday afternoon with an appeal for her stuffed animal drive, asking friends to drop off stuffed animal donations at the Newhall CHP at 28648 The Old Road (near the junction of Highway 126). She has even offered to pick up donations if people contact her via email at email@example.com.
She learned about the Michael Hoefflin Foundation when she volunteered at their gala Evening Under the Stars auction last year. The Foundation is a public nonprofit 501(c)(3) foundation that provides financial and emotional support to children and their families in the Santa Clarita and surrounding valleys. Their goals include educating the public and providing grant funding for innovative research to accelerate progress in the fight against pediatric cancer.
The group is holding its second annual Until A Cure Is Found walk at College of the Canyons at 8 a.m. next Saturday, March 24. The walk celebrates the lives of children and their families who have been affected by children’s cancer. Teams and individuals will walk or run to raise awareness and funds. Walker registration is only $25. Go to www.mhf.org to sign up.